Through the first two games of the season, the Colts run defense has been one of the best in the NFL.
Pro Football Focus has them as the top defense against the run with an 83.5 grade. They also lead the league in average depth of tackle (2.25).
For those who don’t get into analytics, the Colts defense still stacks up well against anyone. They have allowed their opponents to rush for an average of 78.5 yards per game (seventh-best in the NFL) and have held rushers to either no gain or tackled them for loss on 17 plays (second-most in the NFL).
As good as they’ve been, this Sunday will be their biggest test yet as they will travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens.
Even with the offense newly hired offensive coordinator Todd Monken implemented, it is clear that Baltimore still relies heavily on the run.
They’re averaging 144 rushing yards a game, good enough for sixth in the NFL. Last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, they rushed for 178 yards.
“I think Greg Roman (Ravens former offensive coordinator) – we’ve gone against him a couple of years and it’s a very challenging offense,” Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “And I think it’s a very challenging offense because [of] the personnel and they’ve schemed it a little bit differently. You see some things that are similar to what they’ve done in the past but it feels like they’ve opened it up a bit more. It’s been successful for them.”
That production is helped by their ability to create explosive runs, tied for third in the league with nine explosive runs (runs of 10+ yards).
As impressive as that is, the Colts have only allowed three big runs.
Accustomed to seeing different run concepts every week, Bradley said his defense has to be able to adjust to what Baltimore may throw at them.
“Every week is different, right?” Bradley said. “There’s different schemes, there’s different things that we need to do to stop the run. One week it’s the edges, the other week, maybe [it’s] the quarterback run game, different aspects of it.
“So, this will be another challenging week for us because of the different schemes that we haven’t seen up to this point. So, even though we’ve been pretty good against the run the past two weeks, that will be put to [the] test this week.”
If the first few games of the season have been any indication, the Colts have the players to pass with flying colors.
Led by veteran defensive tackles DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart, rushers have had their work cut out for them when they’ve tried to run up the middle.
Buckner leads the team with three tackles for loss and Stewart is tied for second in the league with four plays where he has tackled a rusher for loss or no gain.
Knowing the duo will be relied on heavily this Sunday, Bradley said that he expects them to keep up their strong play.
“Normally you don’t say the first guy that we need in our defense is the nose [tackle],’ That’s generally not what you say,” Bradley said. “But the way he’s played the last couple of weeks, I don’t know what it would be like without him. He has been disruptive up front versus the run. He’s had some pressure on the quarterback.
“So, those two interior guys, Buck and Grove, are playing at a high level right now. And when that occurs, it gives you more flexibility in the back end.”
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